Pandemic isn't a word that brings peace to our souls.
There's so much we don't know; so much has been put on hold, postponed, and cancelled, possibly never to return. Bogus advice mingles with crucial information and it's easy to get lost in a maze of media coverage.
Maybe you have elderly loved ones dealing with health concerns that live far away and you carry the heaviness of whether you'll see them again.
Perhaps you're immunosuppressed, dealing with OCD, or live with the daily struggle of chronic health issues, and now the increased uncertainty of who's healthy and safe hovers over you like a piano swinging from a balcony.
Even before I'd heard of Covid-19, I'd been in that place more times than I like to remember. Whether it was my battle with cancer or simply being run ragged by the relentlessness of life, living in survival mode and fighting to catch my breath easily became my new normal.
I remember the last time I was caught in the unknowing. The mammogram was over, the biopsy was over, but the waiting wasn't.
In a closet-sized room where I'd been asked to wait while the radiologist examined the grey and white images, I perched on a sofa that squeaked as I nervously shifted position.
Given my recent run in with cancer and having lost both my mum and my sister to the same disease, I was asked to wait while they checked whether the ominous grainy spots they'd seen were sinister.
Even scrolling on my phone couldn't distract me.
My palms were clammy, I was sore from the biopsy needle, and all I could think was, "Not again Lord. Not again."
Maybe you've had moments like that. Where the air gets sucked out of the room or you're left hanging in the void between before and after. The not knowing.
Maybe that's how this pandemic feels too. Like your world is shrinking and like a submarine trapped on the ocean floor, your oxygen levels are slowly declining .
The pandemic will hopefully, at some point, move on. However, those moments of unknowing will always be with us.
Your teenager misses curfew and your head spins with images of her car wrapped around a lamppost.
The phone rings to say your dad has slipped, fallen and broken his hip while caring for your mum with dementia.
Another month passes and still the pregnancy test refuses to celebrate what you've been longing for.
Whether it's the relentlessness of life or the panic of the pandemic, what are we meant to do? How can we pray at times like these?
I wish I could tell you I have a 3 Step Fail Safe Prayer for When Panic Wins, but I don't.
When fear and uncertainty fuel anxiety and then crescendo into full-on panic, I don't have the capacity for too many words.
All I can do is stop and breathe.
Breathe in Jesus, breathe out the fear.
Breathe in Jesus, breathe out the anxiety.
Breathe in Jesus, breathe out panic fermenting inside.
I even close my eyes, lower my shoulders so I'm not wearing them as earrings, then visualize Jesus filling me up, and then all the fear leaving as thick grey smoke.
So next time you haven't got it within you to pray, simply breathe Him in. It's amazing how the act of stopping, breathing and visualizing calms the heart rate, swaps our panic for His peace, and strengthens us with His presence for whatever may come.
If we want to breathe again, we must breathe in the One who is the very breathe of life.
Niki Hardy is the author of Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart, a down to earth roadmap to help you discover that with God, life doesn't have to be pain-free to be full, then go live it. Grab the first couple of chapters for FREE HERE. Find out more about Niki at www.nikihardy.com